By:Joe Durwin On: 02:07PM / Tuesday October 04, 2011
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Candidates from a diverse political spectrum took to the stage at Berkshire Community College Monday night to debate their policies and qualifications to represent the city on Beacon Hill.
Republican candidate Mark Jester, Independent Pam Malumphy, Democrat Nominee Patricia Farley-Bouvier and Green-Rainbow Party favorite Mark Miller are all seeking election on Oct. 18 to the 3rd Berkshire District left vacant by Christopher Speranzo, who resigned from the seat after being appointed clerk-magistrate at Central Berkshire District Court in July forcing a special election.
Several questions asked by moderator Brandon Walker, Berkshire correspondent for YNN Albany, were familiar from the previous Democratic primary debate but saw a greater divergence of answers and the administrative philosophies behind them.
On the subject of healthcare legislation in Massachusetts, Malumphy said that she would like to see the Commonwealth "move toward single-payer healthcare" but that in the short-term there needed to be a "collaborative conversation" between hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and insurers to look at "the real cost of healthcare."
Jester pointed to his own background in the insurance business to explain his belief that the Commonwealth's past legislation itself lead to rising costs in insurance, through regulations which had reduced the insurers.
Jester said, "we need to bring once again, into the state, competitive healthcare," to drive down costs, expand coverage and make it easier for businesses to insure employees.
Miller called the current system "unaffordable for many" and "a huge gift to the private health insurance industry and the pharmaceutical companies." He pointed to Vermont as a leading role-model in healthcare legislation and pointed to the role of third-party legislators in providing the extra votes to pass the single-payer bill in that state.
"I’m the only candidate at this table who’s foursquare for single payer healthcare," he said.
Farley-Bouvier said that, like Malumphy, she believed "we need to work toward something like single-payer," but said that there were many things that could be done in the short term to reduce healthcare costs, such as bringing e-records to the healthcare system and a new coding system. She said that we have to "meet the challenge" of administrative costs, and reduce the actual cost of healthcare "before we can look at providing Medicare for all."
On casinos, only Miller voiced strong opposition to building casinos in the state. Jester and Malumphy both said they would have supported a one-casino model, as opposed to the three overwhelmingly approved in the State House last month. Farley-Bouvier said that at this point, she has more questions than answers on the current legislation. All four candidates expressed some dissatisfaction with the way in which the legislation had been handled in the State House and a lack of transparency.
Miller said that he had been the only candidate who had opposed approving casino gambling all along, "even before the primary."
Farley-Bouvier, however, has previously indicated being personally opposed to casino gambling while on the City Council in 2007 when she cast the single dissenting vote against putting forth the non-binding question on this issue which was presented to voters on that year’s ballot. At the time, 59 percent of city voters indicated they approved of legalized gambling in Massachusetts.
In discussing educational issues, Malumphy took specific issue with Farley-Bouvier, who had previously been on the city's School Building Needs Commission, about a perceived lack of clarity in that process as well as her choice to send her children to Lenox schools.
"I think the public is feeling very left out of that conversation," Malumphy said. "And I find it troubling that Ms. Bouvier, who has headed the School Building Needs Commission, is now running for public office, has sent her children to a different school to, in Lenox."
Farley-Bouvier, given the chance to respond to what has become a point of some controversy in her campaign, said that "not every school is for every kid, and my husband and I, as a family decision, made a decision based on the unique educational needs of our children."
All candidates also made reference to the level of scandal in the State House, such as the indictment of its last three Speakers on indictment. Each vowed to try to address corruption and transparency in government if elected.
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